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New feathers for old

During July and August woodlands and gardens are quiet, almost devoid of birdsong. The robin, and the blackbird that sang so boldly during spring are silent and skulking – they are moulting. A bird’s feathers give it protection, colour and pattern for recognition, courtship and camouflage, and in most species enable it to fly. Birds must keep their plumage in good condition and spend much of their time bathing and preening. However, feathers, being lifeless structures, composed mainly of keratin, a mineralised protein, eventually wear out and must be changed. This is done by a process called moulting. The old feather is loosened by the growth of a new feather bud and falls out, allowing the

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